Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin on Thursday said it was shocking that the Tamil Nadu government had still not withdrawn the charges against those who had taken part in protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant that began in August 2011. The state government under former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had booked around 9,000 protestors between 2011 and 2013, and charged them under several sections of the law including sedition.
Tagging a report by The News Minute, Stalin called for the charges against the agitators to be dropped. “The pending cases have affected lives and livelihoods of thousands of people,” he tweeted. “I demand that these cases be immediately withdrawn.”
Thousands of villagers dwelling around the nuclear power plant in Tirunelveli district had then opposed the facility as it would be difficult to evacuate the area in case of a nuclear emergency. The protests began after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan occurred in March of the same year.
The Tamil Nadu government had then instructed the police to take action against the agitators, register first information reports, and detain them to prevent law and order problems. Following this, the protestors were charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Those who were charged with sedition then continue to receive summons once every three months, the report said. Milton, a resident of Idinthakarai village who took part in the protests in 2011, lost his job after his passport was impounded by the authorities. He played a significant role in the protests as he was responsible for spreading the message of the agitation to the “outside world”.
“For the first three or four years after the protests, we were not even allowed to move out of the village to look for jobs,” Milton told The News Minute. “It was like house arrest. But the situation is far better now.” He was among many other young protestors whose aspirations of getting a job overseas and sending money back home were disrupted as many were unable to get a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the police for their passport applications.
Antony Kebiston, who was part of protests in 2011, said the lives of all the agitators were affected in some way or the other following the protests. He said they would get calls from the police if they spoke to the media in detail about the matter. “Highly educated youngsters are pushed to low-paying jobs due to the cases,” he said.
SP Udhayakumar, one of the primary accused in about 300 FIRs filed in the matter, alleged that the government was a “making a joke” out of sedition. Udhayakumar, whose passport was also impounded, founded the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which spearheaded the Kudankulam protests.
Udhayakumar claimed a lookout notice against him was still active. “This was a completely non-violent struggle,” he said. “To book people who took part in such a struggle for ‘waging war against the state’ is totally against the principles of democracy.”
The news portal highlighted a report from Scroll, which highlighted that 10,000 sedition cases were registered against Adivasis who had participated in the Pathalgadi movement. The charges were spelled out in 14 FIRs filed in 2017 and 2018. The actual number of people accused of sedition may be higher if there are more FIRs than those accessed by this news website.
A day after the Scroll report was published, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi castigated the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Jharkhand government for registering the mass sedition cases against unnamed Adivasis in Khunti district.
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